Looking at the next Southeastern franchise (Part 3) – no more carriages for the Woolwich line to 2044 and much more
This is the third post looking at plans for the next Southeastern franchise. Part one covered the Department for Transport’s consultation released last week for the next Southeastern franchise after Chris Grayling blocked devolution of London suburban services to TfL.
It was a pretty quick round-up of changes planned and some of flaws that immediately stood out.
Part two looked into DfT house building numbers in the consultation as the document. The number it mentioned, upon which service provision will be based, appears flawed and badly under-estimates planned housing according to recent reports.
The DfT document mentioned 36,000 homes forecast for south east London yet it could be double that according to the London Plan and ‘City in the East’ reports.
Here in Part 3 there’s some worrying figures of how few extra carriages will be provided, but first let’s look at a claim in the Department for Transport’s consultation document that passenger numbers fell last year. Here’s a screenshot from page 8:
And yet here’s Southeastern’s parent company GoVia’s latest shareholder report from 2016 (page 54). It shows Southeastern growth of 2.3% in 2016:
So who is right, and do the numbers in the DfT consultation offer a hint at what service level they seek to provide? If they assume a stagnating railway will they invest, particularly alongside under-estimating housing to be built?
Will they look at why numbers may have dropped off and realise it’s temporary or an excuse to limit improvements? Just this weekend Cannon Street, London Bridge and Charing Cross were all closed.
We know TfL have invested after control of routes passed to them and then seen rapid growth, which is one major reason many wanted them to take control of commissioning services and setting fares, timetables, station conditions and staffing numbers. TfL are far from perfect and will see heavy cuts in their budget, but so will the DfT.
No more trains
When it comes to additional trains it seems Network Rail are planning no more stock for the Abbey Wood-Woolwich-Charlton-Greenwich line up to 2044. Yep – that’s right. Crossrail will take all demand for around 30 years according to Network Rail.
Things aren’t much better on the Bexleyheath-Welling-Eltham-Kidbrooke-Lewisham-New Cross line. Just four more carriages planned by 2024. Given there’s around 12 trains to central London between 7 and 9am alone that’s not much of an increase.
When looking at these numbers we must wonder whether Network Rail are looking at current housing plans. Not those of five years ago, not even those from two years ago, but forecasts now?
Five years ago when the London Plan was last significantly revised, plans weren’t known to build 800 homes on Tesco’s car park in Lewisham, nor 1000s on retail parks beside the station on the Carpetright site.
Lewisham are also continually upgrading housing numbers due to population growth, as council plans make clear:
Bexley Council are looking to upgrade housing numbers too.
Specific to the Bexleyheath line, there’s plans for many more homes in Eltham under its recent masterplan:
The first of many blocks of flats is now in for planning.
Remember, Network Rail think only four more carriages on the entire line is needed in seven years time.
There’s thousands to be built in Kidbrooke (many now underway) as well as Lewisham AND New Cross, including the consultation now underway for estate regeneration beside the station, as covered last week. And numerous smaller scale plans along the line.
Four more carriages?
When looking more widely the total increase in service provision across all London metro (suburban) lines to London Bridge averages just over 1% per year.
It’s even worse when looking at planned increases on metro services to Victoria. These are the very busy lines through Lewisham to Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye and Victoria, as well as Orpington to Victoria through Brixton – where a large redevelopment is planned by the station including a new entrance.
Despite this Network Rail are planning for just an 8% increase in carriages by 2024 compared to 2014 levels – less than 1% growth a year.
All focus is apparently going into High Speed routes from out in Kent. This encapsulates why TfL needed control over London area rail. The DfT are apparently sacrificing London suburban lines for long distance high speed Kent routes which will see a 55% increase in provision by 2024.
TfL are more likely to pressure Network Rail and challenge these assumptions and plans for poor provision. The DfT? Do they know, or even care? They’ve enough form in failing in this area all over the country.
When large housing plans are submitted developers consult TfL who study impacts on their transport network. When it comes to those around Southeastern stations, I’ve seen many occasions where Network Rail are NOT consulted. If TfL had control they would be able to comment but as things stand it doesn’t happen as it’s not their remit.
The DfT need to sort this out. It’s them who will set the number of trains, upgrades, fares, staffing and much more now they blocked London authorities taking control over its own services under TfL.
Even the trains aren’t owned by the franchise operator, currently Southeastern, as many believe. Private leasing companies own them and the operators lease them. They usually only act to refurbish or order new stock if the DfT ensures it happens.
Pretty much everything is in the hands of Chris Grayling and the DfT. Based on what we have seen and heard so far there’s real doubt as to whether they will provide what’s needed for south east London and north west Kent.
The Department for Transport has created a survey for the public to comment on these plans. It is here.